Clashes in Kosovo’s streets and parliament over Serbia accords

Wed 18 Nov 2015

Clashes in Kosovo’s streets and parliament over Serbia accords

On 18 November protesters in Kosovo clashed with police in Pristina for the second time in two days over the arrest of nationalist Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) MP Donika Kadaj Bujupi, who was accused of using tear gas and pepper spray in parliament a day earlier. The AAK and two other opposition parties, Initiative for Kosovo (NISMA) and the Vetevendosje movement (self-determination), have been halting parliament sessions since early October, in protest over the deals reached between Belgrade and Pristina this August. Earlier this month Kosovo’s president Atifete Jahjaga requested the Constitutional Court to suspend the deal in order to calm the tensions, but opposition MPs have vowed to continue their protests.

Parliament

On the 17th MPs from the opposition parties threw tear gas during a parliamentary session for the fourth time, forcing ruling party MPs to continue the session with opposition parties present in another room in the building. Assembly chairman Kadri Veseli said that “due to extraordinary developments […] we decided to take extraordinary measures”. Prime Minister Isa Mustafa (Democratic League of Kosovo) condemned the MPs and said they performed “a criminal act” and “must be held accountable to the law”. Vetevendosje movement Vice President Albin Kurti used pepper spray against police, saying he “pointed the pepper spray at the prime minister and the government”, while “the police just happened to be in the wrong place”. A warrant was issued for his arrest. His house, alongside that of his colleague Albulena Krasniqi, was searched by police.  Another Vetevendosje MP, Faton Topalli, is also wanted for his participation during the protest. The three opposition parties, in a joined statement, said that “police are responding to the orders of Isa Mustafa and [foreign minister] Hashim Thaci who are ready to transform Kosovo into a police state so as not to give up power”.

Protests

Meanwhile on the streets on the 17th protesters clashed with police, throwing rocks, bottles and petrol bombs. The police responded by using tear gas against the 150 protesters. The protesters are frustrated over the August deal with Serbia, especially over the deals on the ‘association’ of Serb municipalities in Northern Kosovo, which would give more authority to ethnic Serbs. The following days the protest continued, but this time it was focused on the arrest of Kadaj Bujupi and the warrants issued for further arrests of opposition members. Protesters again clashed with police and threw rocks and paint against government buildings, wounding one officer. Despite the warrant for his arrest, Kurti participated in the protests. In the courtyard of the Constitutional Court a hand grenade was discovered and detonated by police after the building was evacuated. It is not the first time protesters clashed with police in protests over the arrest of opposition members. In October Kurti was also accused of setting off pepper spray in parliament and as a result he was arrested, leading Vetevendosje activists to attack a police building in Pristina.

Implications

After the Constitutional Court suspended the deal, the parties in a joint statement promised to “continue their activities in an even more intense manner”. Since then, they have disrupted various parliamentary sessions and orchestrated protests. Serbia meanwhile has criticized the situation in Kosovo and said that “this is really ruining the atmosphere of dialogue and further reducing communication”.  The Constitutional Court is expected to resume its work on the Serbia deal in January. The opposition parties have said they would “not go back to the normal [parliamentary] session until the fulfillment of our requests: withdrawal of the agreements”.